By Aude Kuzniak, guest writer.
American kids are always surprised when they learn that Belgian kids can drink at age sixteen. Belgium seems to be a paradise when you are free to drink while you are pretty young to them. Seemigly, teenagers are attracted to alcohol a lot.
The legal drinking age has always been a big discussion all over the world. In the US, the legal age has not always been fixed at 21 years. From 1969 to 1976, some 30 states lowered it to 18 because that is the voting age. But from 1976 to 1983, several states voluntarily raised the legal age to 21 because of the driving fatalities.
When you compare the US to Belgium where you can drive at 18 and drink at 16, you can notice some differences in the behavior of the teenagers. In the USA, I noticed that a lot of teenagers want to drink alcohol to be drunk and don’t mind taking the car while being drunk. In Belgium, most of the teenagers don’t have a car so they drink and they go back home by night buses or on foot. To me, the Belgian system is more secure.
First, when you start consuming drinking beverages at sixteen legally, you have two years to learn the effects that has alcohol on you and determine your limits, deal with your consumption, and be ready to drive safe. On the contrary, I do not think you are mature enough to drive when you are sixteen. Not only are you a danger for the others, but also for yourself.
“When you are sixteen you are not responsible enough to drive. It is better to drive when you are eighteen because you are more mature,” said senior Laura Lewy.
“Moreover, about a quart of alcohol beverages in the USA are consumed by minors even though they are forbidden to buy it,” according to the French newspaper Le Figaro.
Meaning that even though you put the legal drinking age at 21, teenagers drink in secret.
On the other hand, some teenagers after eighteen don’t know their limits after two years of having experienced drinking without thinking about the consequences. Some don’t learn from their mistakes and do it again. They are dangerous for them and for the other drivers. Even though the legal age is fixed at sixteen in Belgium, some teenagers don’t use this opportunity to drive more safely.
Furthermore, the more you prevent teenagers from doing something, the more they will be tempted to do it. Adolescence is the period between the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood where you want to try all the new things.
“It is like the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920’s, when they prevent people from drinking alcohol, citizens wanted to drink even though it was forbidden,” said Lewy.
Drinking seems also to be a bigger taboo in America than in Belgium. If parents didn’t forbid alcohol to their children, if they showed their child how to taste it and how to enjoy it, they may not binge drink as they do just to feel drunk.